Palms 'more trouble than they're worth'
Overgrown palms are wreaking havoc in the middle of a busy shopping precinct.
The tall trees have lined the streets of the Otahuhu Town Centre for at least 20 years.
But their age and a change in Auckland Council contracts have led to flooding, building damage and growing fire concerns.
Town centre manager Richette Rodger says the Mexican and Californian fan palms were a "brilliant idea" when they were first planted but are now more trouble than they're worth.
Long stretches between trims mean falling fronds litter the streets and clog stormwater drains.
"When it rains we're getting road floods because the drains are blocked," Ms Rodger says.
Leaves and branches also fall on to nearby buildings - choking gutters and causing leaks.
One three-storey building has been so badly damaged that it was leaked down to the ground floor during a recent storm, she says.
"It was raining inside the buildings.
"I ran over to the $2 store and bought every bucket I could find - about 20 buckets. We were running around trying to catch the leaks and we ran out."
The trees have also become a threat to public safety, she says. Their heavy, spiky branches have fallen just inches from pedestrians in the town centre and could cause a serious injury.
Four have been set on fire during the past year, some so close to buildings that they could have caused an inferno.
They've also been blocking the town's CCTV cameras from getting useable footage and their root systems have damaged buildings.
Most worrying is the fact that some roots are "eating back into themselves".
Many palms only have a 10-year lifespan and become top-heavy as they age, increasing the risk of collapse, she says.
Council parks manager Malcolm Page says staff are streamlining maintenance contracts inherited from previous local body authorities.
Otahuhu's trees used to be tended on an "as-required" basis but the council is assessing what maintenance they need now and in the future, he says.
The council hasn't received any reports of people being injured by the palms.
"Some palms have, however, shown signs of damage to property or are in a state that may cause us safety concerns in the future."
Several palms that could pose a danger to the public are now being removed and it's hoped the work can be completed by Christmas, Mr Page says.
Ms Rodger is planning a public meeting about the fate of the palms after the council finishes its assessments.
The meeting, which is likely to be held early next year, will call for locals' opinions on whether they want the trees to go and what they'd like as replacements.
Ms Rodger says it's important that everyone is consulted about the issue.
"We can't go and get rid of the trees just like that because they are part of the community - they've been here longer than I have," she says.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you wear a lifejacket when you are on the water - no matter what vessel you are in?